Prayer will shape your day
Pastor Ingrid Bloom, Montrose United Methodist Church
This week, someone told me, “I don’t pray to God anymore because when I really needed God to help me, he didn’t change what was so painful to me.”
Many times we pray because we want God to stop our suffering, to heal us, to help us find a job, and so on, and when that prayer doesn’t get answered, we may find ourself wondering where God is, and why He doesn’t answer our prayer.
I’d like to invite you to think of prayer in a different way.
Prayer is more about our noticing and recognizing God, than having to ask for His presence. God is always present with us.
So how do we pray?
In the morning when you get up, begin the day with praising God. One possibility is to read a psalm or hymn out loud every morning as your prayer.
Remember what is good about God. Thank God that His agenda for the day is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control, which is written in the Bible in Galations 5:22. Every morning, ask that you may become strong in all of these qualities.
Think about the tasks, situations and people that you are planning to spend time with. Ask God to help you recognize God’s presence in each of these.
You might also pray, “What in me needs to be conformed to you, God?” We carry out God’s creating through our response, but the inspiration, the design, and the strength to carry it out come from God.
Harry Fosdick writes, “Our prayer is not needed to coax God, but it is needed so we will express our seeking for God’s love and goodness, which will deepen our eager readiness for the good we seek. Some things God cannot give to us until we have prepared and proved his spirit by persistent prayer. Such praying cleans the house, cleanses the windows, hangs the curtains, sets the table, opens the door, until God says, ‘The house is ready. Now may the guest come in.’”
Another simple and old prayer to pray throughout the day is, “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Perhaps you will find yourself praying, “Forgive me for a judgmental or unkind thought . . . my lack of faith . . . my lack of action . . . my doubt . . . my weakness.” Whenever we turn our thoughts to God, He helps us turn away from selfishness, anger, self pity, complaining, fear, despair, hopelessness, pride and being judgmental, and willfulness, which keeps us from caring about others.
One way that the old monastics viewed the origins of sin, that which keeps us from God, is through habits they called the passions. These were habits of seeing, feeling, thinking and acting that blind us to who we are, who are neighbors are, and who God is so that we are not able to respond appropriately, rationally and lovingly. Examples of these passions are envy that makes it impossible to see a neighbor except through the lens of resentment, the kind of smoldering irritability toward a family member that results in touchiness about everything the other person does or says, a need to be in control all the time, a habitual distrust of other people’s motives, as well as a constant need of approval, or obsessive cravings, or a fear of being alone.
Our job is to fight against the passions and seek healing with the help of God and each other. The real goal is to be able to love as we were made to love.
Wrestling with temptation is what helps us grow as Christians. Some people have no temptations because they give in to them as soon as they arise. God helps us to build a Christ- like character as we wrestle with the temptation to react with anger, wrath, or unkindness.
Often the result of wrestling with our passions is that we become more compassionate. Our own failures to resist temptation can equip us to love the one who, like us, has also sinned.
At the end of the day, you may want to ask God to forgive you for certain thoughts, non action, or wrong actions. Also at the end of the day, think about what has disquieted you during the day, robbed you of inner peace, made you angry or resentful, or frightened. Then you may want to pray, “Lord, through you I forgive . . ,” and name who and what you forgive. Even if your feelings aren’t yet able to feel that forgiveness, you are submitting to God your will to forgive.
Forgiveness is trusting God to love the person who is doing bad actions, and to let go of your preoccupation to what someone else is doing. We become free when we are more concerned about what we are doing and how we love, than about what someone else is doing. Prayer includes that act of forgiving.
Prayer will shape your actions, your decisions, your emotions, your habits, and your attitudes. Daily times of prayers are helpful if they include praise of God, thankfulness to God, naming God’s will for us as in the fruits of the spirit or certain Bible passages or certain songs, confessing our weaknesses, passions, faults or sins to God, and opening ourselves to receive forgiveness from God. We extend that forgiveness with God’s help, praying for others, for the increase of love, and waiting for guidance from God’s spirit.
In summary remember these six elements of prayer: thank you; what do you want me to be and do?; I’m sorry; help me . . . .help others; I love you, God.